Amtgard Rules of Play.

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Hands in the Cookie Jar
[11/16/2002] [Randall]

Something I’ve noticed in my short travels around Amtgard is how different things are from park to park. Whether it’s standards on how hard legal shots should be, or Atomic Clock vs. Shot in Motion, or quaint customs like calling knights ‘Sir’ or knighting people twice in a newsletter, every land has something that makes it stand out from the rest of Amtgard. At first, this sort of bugged me, since I believe that Amtgard is stronger when we’re all on the same page… but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that the differences are what make the game interesting. My visit to Mystic Glade, a barony in the Kingdom of Dragonspine, only confirmed my growing opinion that different is good. Unlike the rest of the kingdom, they do extreme Atomic Clock down there. Any good reader of e-Samurai knows how I feel about this heretic combat style, but I couldn’t help but be amazed with how well it worked for the guys in Mystic Glade. It made their park interesting and fun, and I found myself enjoying the way they fought. This doesn’t mean I want to import that combat style to Dragonspine proper, but it also doesn’t mean I’m going to try to get Mystic Glade to change. Not having an overall kingdom standard made this diversity possible.

Still, there are many areas that should be standardized – namely, awards. I’m not about to get into the mess of trying to explain what each award should mean, since that would be an article in its own right. Instead, I’d like to take a particular issue that I have – erm – issue with, line it up against the wall, and execute it by making some atomic clockers poke it really quickly before getting their Zulu sword belts. The issue I’m talking about is monarchs who give themselves awards.

(Before I go on, let me say a few words about the word ‘monarch’. I think it friggin’ sucks ass through a short straw. Everybody likes to use it to describe the head officer in each park, but it’s way too vague and has no flavor whatsoever. It even confuses people, as we saw when some baron tried to go to the monarch’s meeting at Clan. I say, let the word be damned and use something with juice to it. Call a king a king, a queen a queen, a duke a duke, and so on. I guess, if you wanted to, you could call a king or a queen a monarch, since they really are monarchs. But sheriffs and barons? Christ.)

You know what I’m talking about. You’re standing at the feast, having slurped down your stew, and you’re waiting to see what awards will be given out. Or maybe you’re at a Burning Lands feast and you’re waiting for the Dragonspine court to finish so you can kick their kingdom symbols and kick some minors and maybe even kick a mundane. Or perhaps you’re at an Iron Mountains coronation and you’re standing outside the feast hall because everyone in Amtgard showed up and you took too long walking to court. Anyway, you’re there and it’s time for awards to be given out, and that’s when it happens.

Lord Flurby gives himself an order. If he’s sneaky, he might let Lady Flurby (his regent) give him the award instead. He graciously accepts the award, the crowd applauds, and everyone moves on as though nothing happened. Sure, you might see a few odd looks in the audience as people wonder about the legitimacy of the award, but it’s not like anyone is outraged enough to speak up.

Well, I’ve seen it, I’m tired of it, and I’m outraged enough to speak up.

Those in charge should not give themselves awards. Sheriffs, barons, dukes and kings are the ultimate source of any recognition given out in their lands. The legitimacy of every award, from the highest Grand Duke to the humblest Rose, stems directly from the person in charge. If they give themselves an award, they’re committing some sort of crime. What kind of hubris tells a person that they’re objective enough to know what to give themselves? It’s terrible because it cheapens the award, it’s terrible because it insults those who received their awards without bias, and – this is the worst part – it’s terrible because, even if the guy giving himself an award deserved it, who’s gonna take it seriously? He might as well mark his forehead with a big rubber stamp with “I had my hand in the cookie jar for six months” etched into it and it would be just as good. Nobody serious will take his self-granted award seriously.

Even if he were somehow objective enough to give himself awards properly – say he had the wisdom of Solomon, for example – he still shouldn’t do it. He was elected to serve his land, not serve himself. Taking awards is like dictators who pillage the treasuries and let the people starve, and Amtgard should not stand for it.

And like I said, some people try to get sneaky and have their regent give the awards. I don’t see how any self-respecting person can claim that this isn’t just as bad. It’s certainly possible that the baron or duke or whatever will have no idea that his #2 man is going to give him a rose at court, but it still looks shady and lame to the rest of the world. Did any of you take Al Gore seriously when he said that Bill Clinton was the greatest president? Absolutely not. He might have meant it, too, and it wouldn’t have mattered because we wouldn’t believe him. You knew he was just doing his job, and I’m against anything that makes it the job of the regent to give awards and accolades to the guy from whom all awards come.

(This reminds me of another comment. ‘Regent’ is a crappy title. It technically means you are in charge because the king is incapable of ruling. This means it has no place below the kingdom level… so what should you call regents who are in duchies, baronies, and shires? I called myself ‘Prince’ rather than ‘Regent’ while I was serving King Phywren, but I know a lot of other people insist on using ‘Regent’. Well, it sucks, and they should find a title that doesn’t suck.)

Anyway, I’m not saying folks who do this are necessarily bad people, or that they’re giving recognition that isn’t warranted. I’m just saying there’s a better way to do it. They could’ve asked their king to give the award instead. All it takes is a bit of communication between the local monarch (ugh) and the king and the situation is resolved. Instead of an ugly display of someone pimping out orders like it's Goldenvale at Christmastime, you have a wonderful show of kingdom cohesion. Court is always better when you can give orders that were approved by the king himself… and anything that makes Amtgard feel more feudal is good for the game in general. This is something the local regent, or anyone from the local land, could do without crossing any moral lines. Nobody should ask for awards for themselves, though. Such behavior should be punished through education or mockery -- whichever is necessary.

“But what if you’re the king?”, some people might say. “You can’t ask anyone else for awards if there’s no-one else to ask.” Well, that’s just tough. First of all, no self-respecting king should be doing it for the orders, and second, if the king does manage to go above and beyond the call of duty and people think he should be given a rose or something… well, that isn’t your decision to make, and it isn’t the king’s, either. It should be completely up to the king’s successor.

I’ve actually seen kings given awards, and it’s just not right. My own sense of proper courtly behavior makes it even worse, since anyone receiving an award should be kneeling, and no king should kneel to anyone without a damned good reason. Getting an Order of the Rose is not worth submitting your kingdom and crown before an inferior, or even an equal. Hell, getting a knighthood isn’t even worth it.

And that’s the ultimate controversy -- kings who knight themselves. We’ve all heard how it goes, where the circle wants to knight the king and people can’t wait for the reign to be over… so they vote, approve it, and the king scores a belt. All I can say is this sucks worst of all. I’m sure all the kings were worthy and were knighted with the best of intentions, but why did they have to make the process so dirty? Knighthood, more than any award, only exists because kings exist. Any belt given under a king’s reign must be directly approved by him and him alone. The knights can’t give out belts. Only a king can, and no so-called vote makes this right. They should've said no.

Even if it’s given by another land, it’s still a farce. I recall the Burning Lands and the Golden Plains giving me orders while I was king, and though I accepted the paperwork in court to be polite (nobody likes to hear people brag about being humble), I never submitted the papers to my Prime Ministers. The most vivid memory I have of those incidents is of the three Iron Mountains knights who joked about whether I was going to give myself the order I received. And they were right -- I couldn’t accept the orders because it would morally be the same thing as just giving them to myself.

Speaking of the Iron Mountains... heck, is this a rant or a collection of digressions? Anyway, I just had to say that the early part of this article might make it seem that I was suggesting that the leaders of the Iron Mountains and the Burning Lands made a practice of giving themselves awards. They don't. Both kingdoms have, as a general rule, the highest standards across Amtgard when it comes to awards. I notice that I also suggested that the Burning Lands had feasts, and that isn't true either.

If you’re thinking about giving yourself an award, don’t do it. If you’re offered an award by your regent, don’t accept it. If you've accepted an award and now think you should've have after reading this article... well, keep it, but work long and hard to remove any doubts that you deserve it. And if you’re the king and you feel some burning need to get titles and recognition, abdicate your sorry ass from the throne before you dirty it up any more with your arrogance and let a real king give you the award – even though you don’t deserve it anymore.

This is e-Samurai’s 100th article. That’s an average of one article every three days since we opened in January. There have been rants about many different topics and the forums have seen engaging discussion about even more. I didn’t expect it to get this far and I’m thankful to everyone who helped. There’s too many names to mention, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

Duke Phywren gave me the encouragement to get it going and was the brains behind attaching a forum to the site, which turned out to be the gimmick that made e-Samurai work. Marquis Glenalth was the force behind keeping the forums alive… his constant presence nurtured them through some rough times and made sure they stayed around for everyone to enjoy today. Sir Michael, Sir Phocion, and Sir Roger are the holy trinity who rode in to revive the forums… from Michael’s posts to Phocion and Roger’s roles as 6.1 reps, they made the forums mean something to a lot of people. And Emperor Belgarion was a voice of reason when I needed one, and his wise input helped guide e-Samurai to the site it is today.

There were others. Every guest writer deserves my heartfelt thanks, and I owe Sir Feral, Sir Snicker, and Sir Corbin a beer for directing their fanclubs here to discussion the Fink and Amtgard Combat. And finally, there’s the hundreds of forum users, who turned the Electric Samurai into a thriving internet community. Thanks, all of you.

Okay. That was way too mushy. Let's move on to some symbolism.

I was driving back from Tennessee after visiting the rough-fighting boys in Mystic Glade, and I saw a sign on the side of the road with some letters burned out. It said Restaurant, with the 'au' faded. Both Lady Azrael and I saw it right away and commented on the amusing message it inadvertently stated. It got me to thinking about how the topics that drove e-Samurai for so long have all run dry. We mocked ‘Angus’. We laughed at the Mystic Seas and Goldenvale. We told people to stop leaving bruises and calling awards “theirs”. We debated 6.1. And we argued long and hard for an honorable resolution to the Wetlands crisis. With the recent decline in article submissions, I wondered if e-Samurai’s purpose had gone away.

And then I realized that there’s still a lot of good left to be done in Amtgard. We need international standards that make awards mean the same thing everywhere. We need a real rules revision that makes Amtgard better and simpler. We need to make the events bigger, better, and more fun for everybody. We need to stand up for the values that make knighthood great. We still have our stories to tell... those stories that let people know what Amtgard is all about, and contain the lessons that make Amtgard better. And as long as there’s someone doing something stupid somewhere in Amtgard, there has to be an e-Samurai ready to tell him he’s wrong, tell him why, and then tell him how to be right.

It’s been a year-long journey, but we’re still here, and the motto hasn’t changed. All opinions, all the time.

I’ve rested. Now it's time to rant.

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